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Emergency call from Gaza

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Photo from Kristyan Benedict's twitter feed

Photo from Kristyan Benedict’s twitter feed

Gaza City, July 31

I am in the Gaza Strip since the 22nd of July and still cannot believe what is happening here. I am experiencing the worst days of my life. All people in Gaza experience the worst days of their lives. Such massive attacks on Gaza are without precedent. Behind these words hide human tragedies. The humanitarian catastrophe has reached its peak.

The war in Gaza is a war against civilians. I am not the only one saying this, but also the people in Gaza alongside all the journalists that I speak to, who have covered all the wars of the past 10 years (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc…). What is happening here has a new quality.

Rockets strike everywhere. In residential houses, where families are living, in mosques where people are praying. During the early evening hours of July 30th an F16 jet bombarded the residential building just across the street from our house. We were just sitting on the balcony when the rocket hit the house only 50 meters away. Just seconds before, I heard the donkey hysterically screaming, as if he could foresee the attacks wanting to warn us.

Debris hit the walls of our house and only missing us by inches. Suddenly we sit in a cloud of dust. The dust covers my glasses and my laptop. The dust crunches between my teeth. It takes about half a minute until the dust settles. Now I can see the father, with whom I have just talked on the street, how he hides with his children behind an excavator, to look for cover if a second strike follows. The excavator is on a parking lot in front of our house and belongs to the owner of a construction company. I run immediately to the rubble of the bombarded residential house and see the injured. I have already seen the family multiple times walking down the street. With my mobile phone, I record how the ambulances arrive and transport the injured to the hospital. On the street lie stones, shards and fallen power poles.

Since I have arrived, countless civilian targets have been bombarded in broad daylight with clear sky and in free sight. Amongst them are a primary school for girls from the United Nations in Beit Hanoun where hundreds of refugees had taken shelter, in spite of the UN having sent the GPS coordinates of the school to the general commandment of the Israeli army. I cannot even recall the exact number of deaths and don’t have internet to look it up. Moreover, a park in the refugee camp Schatti has been attacked. The eight children that played in front of it are all dead now. And 17 people died during the late afternoon of the 30th of June, when a market in the North of the Gaza Strip was bombarded. A further 160 Palestinians injured, who were doing their groceries. The enumeration of the massacres on the civilian population could be continued endlessly, as since the 8th of July around 1000 civilians have been killed.

I simply cannot understand the motivation of the Israeli armed forces. Why would they intentionally aim at civilian targets and bombard large gatherings of people? Precise knowledge of the targets in the cross thread should be available through the surveillance drones, which deliver high resolution imagery. Why are the pilots in their fighter jets deliberately killing women and children? Which ethical standards do these lords of the skies follow that decide over life and death? They sit in the most modern fighter jets that have been developed to date and brace themselves with their “targeted strikes”. That soldiers have to kill soldiers in a war, is legitimized by international law, but that civilians are being intentionally targeted– like the family in the neighbouring house, the children in the park and the UN refugee school– that is not legally covered under any type of treaty on conducting wars.

The people in Gaza ask themselves, why the German and other Western European heads of States do not forcefully condemn these violations of international conventions. These are war crimes that the Israeli military is committing on a daily basis.

Even hospitals, a water plant and the only power station of the Gaza Strip have already been hit. In our quarter, in the centre of Gaza City, known as “Beverly Hills” because until three weeks ago it possessed a functioning infrastructure, no one has running water anymore. We wash ourselves with water from plastic bottles that we buy at the shop around the corner. Since the night of the 29th of July, when the power stations were bombarded, we stopped having electricity and internet. The landline is dead too. The mobile phone is the only medium of communication that still functions, and it s very expensive when used over long stretches of time. I am sending the text I am writing in the Al Deira Hotel, which owns a generator and in which the French news agency AFP has its own Wi-Fi network.

There is no more bread in the Gaza Strip; no one can buy bread anymore. We eat the bread which has been baked by the wife of my host Maher. She bakes it in the inner courtyard of our house in a self-made oven, fired by charcoal. We dip the bread in olive oil and Za’tar, a paste made from thyme, sesame and salt. We eat this every day. But even if there would be any purchasable bread, we have no money to pay for it. Since the beginning of the war there is no more cash in the cash machines, because the banks are closed and the Ministry of Finance was completely destroyed, so credit cards are functioning. When we purchase flour or oil in the store around the corner we note our purchases down to pay for them later. Just like everyone else at the moment.

There is no more public life in the Gaza strip. All public authorities and offices are closed. Almost all shops and restaurants are closed. The people here only go out of the house if absolutely essential. The beaches and parks are deserted. The last four children that played football on the beach have been killed by an Israeli rocket. There weren’t any fighters from Hamas nor rocket launching-sites nearby, as eye-witnesses consistently report.

I live in a two-story building around the corner of the Al Amin mosque, bombed-out on the 29th of July. Ten people lived here before the war. Now it is 70 that share the two flats. My hosts have taken in 60 refugees from the North of the Gaza Strip that has been totally flattened. The men have to sleep in the entrances and the halls and the women and children take the flats. Living and sleeping in such a tight space with so many strangers is not easy and any notion of private sphere has ceased to exist. The nerves are constantly on the edge after three and a half weeks of continuous bombardment, of which I only experienced one and a half weeks. Nevertheless, all 70 inhabitants of this house behave calmly and considerately. They share everything they have, a baked bread, the last cigarette, a mobile phone battery or a piece of soap for personal hygiene. Yesterday I visited our quarter’s kindergarten, where 80 people are sleeping per room.

Palestinians are as smart as the Lebanese, as intelligent as Iraqis, as strong fighters as the Algerians and as hospitable as the Syrians. Perhaps it is those many positive attributes that enable the people of Gaza to deal with these difficult situations without having to give in. Despite the three and a half weeks of bombardment from air, sea and land, children are still playing on the streets, women are still singing their songs while baking bread and men are still resisting. Maher, my host explained: “Our will to live and fight, cannot be broken by rockets and grenades.”

About Martin Lejeune

Martin Lejeune is a German journalist. He blogs at

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14 Responses

  1. just
    August 2, 2014, 11:33 am

    “Palestinians are as smart as the Lebanese, as intelligent as Iraqis, as strong fighters as the Algerians and as hospitable as the Syrians. Perhaps it is those many positive attributes that enable the people of Gaza to deal with these difficult situations without having to give in. Despite the three and a half weeks of bombardment from air, sea and land, children are still playing on the streets, women are still singing their songs while baking bread and men are still resisting. Maher, my host explained: “Our will to live and fight, cannot be broken by rockets and grenades.””

    Palestinians are a graceful and indomitable people. Nobody on this earth will conquer the spirit that is Palestinian nor the land that is Palestine. Long live Palestine!

    I apologize deeply and humbly for the terror/genocide/massacre and pain that has been brought upon them all.

    Thank you for this, Martin Lejeune.

  2. Kay24
    August 2, 2014, 11:41 am

    There is no doubt civilians are being targeted. over 300 children being brutally killed MORE than the militants, and the entire world, led by the US of course, are ignoring the numbers, the brutality and justifying this massacre by supporting Israel.

    So Obama, exactly who is the outrageous and barbaric side again?

    The side that killed 3 Israeli civilians, or the side that killed 1600 civilians?

  3. Justpassingby
    August 2, 2014, 11:59 am

    Israel and the attackers of 911 want to kill as many civilians as someone, dares, to say stop.

  4. gracie fr
    August 2, 2014, 12:17 pm

    I remember the same targeting of economic lynchpins was done in the 2006 Lebanon war. Bombs hit a glass factory which made jars to hold the olives exported to Europe and the largest dairy processing plant was smashed to smithereens. Israel quickly offered to fill the gap!

    Thirty years of hard work were needed to build the Alawda biscuit and ice cream factory into the biggest private company in the Palestinian territories. It took just a few minutes in the early hours of Thursday morning to send all that endeavor up in smoke. Hitting the factory, which employs 400 people and also produces concentrated fruit juice, served no obvious military purpose. It survived unscathed during the 2008-9 and 2012 wars between Israel and Hamas, which left widespread destruction elsewhere in Gaza. To the firm’s management, however, the goal was very clear – to destroy Gaza’s private economy. “They want to destroy everything,” said Manal Hassan, Alawda’s executive manager, standing in the smoke blackened remains of the factory as workers battled smoke and sweltering heat trying to save raw materials vital to the company’s manufacturing process. “They don’t want the people to produce. They want them just to be dependent on aid. No rockets were being fired out of this area because the resistance knows this is a very big and important factory and wouldn’t want it attacked.
    Outside central Gaza City, a string of businesses with no obvious links to militant activities lie in ruins after being demolished by missiles or shells. They include a plastics factory, a sponge-making plant and even the headquarters of the territory’s main fruit distribution near the northern town of Beit Hanoun, much of which has been levelled in the Israeli land invasion. It had taken two direct hits from missiles fired by an Israeli war plane in the early hours of Monday morning, according to Hassan Jihad, 25, the factory caretaker, who survived fortuitously because he had moved to the company’s administrative headquarters outside the main factory for the duration of the conflict.
    He too had little doubt about the reason behind the strike. “The Israelis are trying to destroy the economy and paralyse Gaza,” he said. “This is the only factory in the Gaza Strip producing cardboard containers. We don’t have any rockets in the place.”

  5. crone
    August 2, 2014, 1:13 pm

    check out Max Blumenthal’ s twitter today

    Body parts in trees, fingers littering the ground, burnt flesh on ambulance windshields. These are the scenes they’ve described to me

  6. just
    August 2, 2014, 2:28 pm

    You’ll be so happy to know that Netanyahu just asked the international community to help rebuild Gaza. He said he knows how much pain you are in.

    He says that Israel is a ‘democratic and ethical state’. Perhaps you could use a *laugh* to interrupt your torrents of tears.

  7. Walid
    August 2, 2014, 2:38 pm

    “Netanyahu just asked the international community to help rebuild Gaza. ”

    He probably means Saudi Arabia, but Saudi Arabia would not get involved unless Qatar backs off. It happened in Egypt.

    • Justpassingby
      August 2, 2014, 2:45 pm

      Yes now must the outside world pay for the destruction that israel caused, how many billions will it cost? Not to mention the 1600 or so lives murdered? I also read that netanyahu called on Abbas to be part of this “rebuild” of Gaza too, whatever that means..

    • just
      August 2, 2014, 2:47 pm

      No rules apply to Israel…they are held immune from every stinking thing that they do.

      Under the rules of Occupation, I believe that Israel is ENTIRELY RESPONSIBLE for all of the damage.

      I truly think that it is up to Israel and the US to pay for the resurrection of Gaza and leave the work to unencumbered and free Palestinians to do as they wish.

      • oldgeezer
        August 2, 2014, 7:01 pm

        That’s my interpretation of the laws covering occupation as well. I am beginning to believe Israel is truly a western democratic state… sadly when considering the past century I also believe a western democratic state is euphemism for we may do what we want, when we want, regardless of international laws or treaties, and we are not responsible for the consequences of our actions.

        I can only wish it was different.

      • oldgeezer
        August 2, 2014, 7:11 pm

        There really is a bright side though. At least a few less children and innocents will be turned to mist and body parts tonight.

        Many more will die in the days to come due to the lack of services and infrastructure. They will suffer more than those killed outright.

        And in a few years when the time comes to mow the grass again, we in the west (meaning our states, and the supporters, who don’t care) will look down our noses at them again and say… They’re savages. They’ve been given so many chances to make something of themselves and look at them.

    • a blah chick
      August 2, 2014, 4:20 pm

      Why would anyone contribute to only see the results blown up in the next mowing?

      This thing is not over.

  8. Philemon
    August 2, 2014, 7:03 pm

    Yes, if this were a natural disaster, people in the U.S. would be donating to the relief organizations in droves. But no, Israel and their lawyers in the U.S. have labelled any donations to Palestinians as “terrorist” support.

    So, they can’t. It’s against the law.

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